Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain may have company come July 29, as Chris Froome will be looking to join them by winning a fifth Tour de France in 2018.
The second Grand Tour of the year kicks off in Noirmoutier-en-l’Ile on Saturday, and Team Sky’s Froome is the clear favourite after his three Tour de France wins on the bounce, as well as his recent triumphs in the Giro d’Italia and last year’s Vuelta a Espana.
Stage 1 of the 2018 Tour will see the riders take on a 201-kilometre flat run along the coast from Noirmoutier to Fontenay-le-Comte.
Eurosport 1 and ITV 4 will provide coverage for UK viewers, with live streams available via Eurosport Player and the ITV Hub. Viewers in the United States can tune in via NBC and its NBC Sports Live service.
As can be seen from the Tour de France’s virtual route guide, this year’s race begins on the island of Noirmoutier before heading quickly on to the mainland and heading down the coast:
The main concern for the riders during the opening stage will be wind; the peloton will be exposed to the Atlantic Ocean for much of the day.
For the general classification riders like Froome, Nairo Quintana, Vincenzo Nibali, Richie Porte, Tom Dumoulin, Romain Bardet and Adam Yates, the prime objective will be to stay out of trouble.
Weather conditions will play a crucial role in how those going after the yellow jersey ride on Saturday, as crosswinds off the ocean can be nasty.
In terms of who will win the stage, it will be a day for the sprinters.
Katusha-Alpecin’s Marcel Kittel won five stages on the 2017 Tour before abandoning after a crash on Stage 17. He will surely be in the mix for the bunch sprint to the finish on Saturday.
Dimension Data’s Mark Cavendish will also be desperate to get a stage win under his belt early. He crashed out of last year’s Tour on Stage 4 in an incident with Peter Sagan, which saw the Slovakian rider disqualified, and he has Merckx’s record of 34 stage wins firmly in his sights—Cavendish sits on 30.
Mark Renshaw, along with the rest of a strong Dimension Data outfit, will be on hand to help him out:
Other potential stage winners on Saturday include Sagan, Dylan Groenewegen, Fernando Gaviria and Arnaud Demare.